Monday, July 23, 2007

Shopping for Pupster Stuff

As the Pupsters go to their new homes, there are probably humans out there shopping for the *right* toys and accessories. 

The Pupsters have a rag rug in their crates, and none of them have chewed on those so you should be able to give them something soft to recline on without having them ingest it.  That can be a problem with some dogs.  I keep a chew toy in the crate so that they have something to occupy them.  That can be a puppy-sized Kong toy (which you can stuff with cheap peanut butter or cheese whiz if you like) or a nylonbone toy. 

Do not leave a puppy unsupervised with any toy or treat that they can break down and get lodged in their throat.  I use Greenies as treats some times but always get a bigger size and do not leave them unattended, as dogs have choked on them.  Of course, there are dogs (just like children) who can choke to death on anything, and hence the warnings, but I have never had a dog have a problem with Greenies, knuckle bones or even the frozen chicken wings I give adults as treats. 

I like to use a humane slip collar for puppies.  As you can see in the photo, it does not act as a slip lead which can tighten and choke but allows you to tighten it to the pup's neck size. 

The wide, patterned part of the one below goes around the pup's neck and the second loop you see is what tightens it.  The collar is slightly wider than a regular puppy collar and distributes the pressure.  These are walking collars.  They are not used for making corrections, and any training at this age should use treats as lure/reward.  Remember: the way to a pup's head is through his stomach! 

This odd looking little toy is made of the soft, blanket material of puppy tugs.

When doing play retrieves with your puppy, find toys that are appropriate to the size of your pup. Too large and they will drag it around by a handle or small piece instead of carrying it properly, a habit that you do not want.  I like to use a variety of objects, so that the puppy learns that retrieve means to bring back anything I ask, not just a particular type of object.  The other day, I used a knobby rubber toy and a rubber chicken.  However, after retrieving an odd item, end with something familiar and rewarding.  In the play retrieves, I let the puppy see the object, toss it and just as soon as it reaches the object I begin calling and mark the behavior when the pup returns.  I do not use a formal retrieve command until I have shaped the behavior I want. 

To incite the pup to return quickly, RUN AWAY. (not so far it can't keep up, but enough to kick in the prey/pursuit drive).   Just before the pup reaches you, turn to face it and continue to move backward, bringing the dog in to you. This is helpful advice for any time you call the pup to you.  Want to make sure your pup does not return or comes in slowly? Stand still, lean forward, order the pup to sit and then do not reward it.   How many times have you seen that happen?  By standing still, you create a big wall and then if you lean forward you push the dog further away from your body, the opposite of the behavior you are trying to create.  No more than 1 in 10 recalls should involve a sit, especially at a baby level.  The pup quickly learns that there is no hurry in getting to you because you are only going to bark at it and maybe even correct it once it gets there.  The most important thing right now is the speed in getting there, and rewarding that.  Act crazy! Act as if you just won the lottery, or your puppy is indeed Smarter than a Fifth Grader! Woo hooo and be happy, so your pup thinks running to you is just the best thing in the world! 

And then, do not forget to reward it.  And by that I do not mean saying "good dog".  The Reward is the puppy's paycheck.  If you finished your work week and  the boss patted your head and said "good job", would you be satisifed? Inspired to work harder the next week?  I think not!

Save the best and most fun toys for training.  Everything with a puppy is a learning process, and therefore training.  If you go out for a walk, carry treats and a toy (and a poop bag).  ALWAYS be prepared to reward good behavior.  When I took Doc to the vet for his flight certificate, they asked if I always carried treats with me.  I do, if I have a dog along.  The treats are not a bribe, they are a reward.  There is a difference, and part of that difference is in the application of training.  Watch the Ivan Balabanov tapes and you will understand.


This is a tug toy.  All puppies want to tug.  What is important is that you teach them that you are not in competition for their toys, but you do control them because you are the leader.  That means they do not have free access to the best stuff.  That comes from YOU.  You can excite them by prepping them for work by saying "Want to play?" or "want to go to work?" and then out comes the best toy, or you do a couple of retrieves.  The pup needs to learn that toys in your hand belong to you and that you end the game BUT make the trade for food calmly and quietly, and then put the toy away. You can say "all done".  If you steal the toy, snatch it away as the pup leaps and tries to grab it, or make strong corrections to release, you create a pup who knows you are unfair and will try to possess the toy because it does not believe it will get it back.  Many times you will ask the pup to release, trade for a treat and when it lets go, mark (yes!) and then present the toy again, reinforcing your ownership of the toy (you give and you taketh away) and that the pup can earn it back by offering the desired behavior.  One additional caution is that if you are training a gun dog do not teach it to "drop" the toy.  Some times families with children do this so that the kids can safely play fetch, but this is a behavior you will have to fix because the dog must deliver to hand at any testing level.  For pets this is less critical until you get tired and your back is sore from finishing the retrieves yourself! (gooood boy!)

Don't scatter your floor with toys.  If you go crazy and have a toybox full, pick one each day for the pup to play with, other than having a good chew toy. 

In the dog's hierarchy of needs there is sex, food and shelter.  We deny them sex, we provide shelter, so there is only food (and play) that we can control and use for reward.  Fixed feeding is best.  That way you know exactly how much your pup is eating and immediately know if it is "off" its feed.  It also strengthens the relationship, because a leader controls resources.  If your dog has toys all the time, can play when it likes and eat whenever it likes, what does it need you for? You become an annoying inconvenience in his life!

The pups eat Solid Gold Wolf Cub and are still also getting a meat meal.  Their meat meal is from Animal Food Services in Green Bay, Wi.   For training treats I use Natural Balance rolls, cut into small pieces.

The best time to train is when the puppy is hungry, and right after they have come out of their crate and pottied.  They are ready to DO SOMETHING!  Use that energy for good, not evil. <grin>   Using the crate for down time and focus can be helpful, as well.  Put the pup in the crate for an hour, then take it out and have a lesson while it is refreshed. 

When I put the pups in their crates, I say "kennel" and toss in a couple dog biscuits.  They follow the biscuits in, and I shut the door. End of story.  No wrestling, no fuss and going into the crate gets a reward.  If you plan to travel withyour puppy you will also want to reinforce that it can eat in any location, so sometimes feed it in the crate and outdoors, etc.  I once watched a *trainer* demonstrate how to teach a dog to go into the crate, and she grabbed it by the ears as the dog screamed, and ear pinched it in.  Trust me, folks, there is a better and more humane way to do this!  You can do it with food or toy, by restraining the dog while exciting it, then say "kennel" and toss a toy inside or put the food dish down in the crate (where the dog won't knock it over, running in), then release the dog.  Do not worry about closing the door for this exercise; what you are developing is the response to the word "kennel" and a joy in getting there.  Just as soon as the dog enters the crate, mark the behavior (yes!) and it can either grab the toy, at which point you play with it, or eat the meal.  Either method teaches the command and creates a dog who thinks going into the crate is a good thing!   In the house, I will also occasionally leave a tasty treat or stuff kong inside the crate so that if the pup passes the open door, it smells it and volunatarily goes inside to check it out.

There are so many fun toys for puppies that you can spend a small fortune in a pet store.  Our local Fleet Farm has better prices but doesn't carry the same variety as pet stores.  Don't bother with the light rubber toys that the dog can chew up and swallow, and do not buy toys with squeakers that a dog will free play with. Squeaky toys create a "munching" behavior that is not going to be desirable later on, as the pup learns to exert pressure to hear the squeak and be self rewarded.  I have, at times, used a toy with a squeaker to get a puppy's attention for a retrieve, but that is no longer needed or desired at their age so it is best just to avoid them.

Go forth and SPEND!!!

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